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Controllership and the workforce of the future

Understanding the impact of technology on accounting talent

Evolving an organization's digital strategy and developing specific controller skills to better partner alongside emerging technologies can help companies navigate the digital transformation of technology and the accounting profession.

August 28, 2018

A blog post by Beth Kaplan, managing director, Deloitte & Touche LLP and Jessica Bier, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP

The future of work will look different, from how an organization is structured to the components that makeup the technology and accounting profession and controllership workforce. The advent of digital finance is causing a disruption in the controllership function and finance industry, leading to changes in almost every dimension of business. New technology, automation, and generational shifts are impacting the work being done, the workforce used, and where the work gets done. Understanding the impact of technology on accounting and the digital transformation on talent can provide insights into a workforce strategy that can continue to add value in the future of work.

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Changing environments and the impact of technology on accounting talent

The influx of new technology and major demographic changes are ushering in the future of work by disrupting key dimensions of an organization—the work, the workforce, and the workplace.

Work: The type of work people will do in the future, given the automation, cognitive, and other exponential technologies.

Workforce: The workforce portfolio is expanding to include employees, contingent workers, crowds, and gig workers.

Workplace: The structure and practices that enable people to collaborate both virtually and physically.

Disrupters are forcing the evolution of controllership

The prominent disrupters that are acting as catalysts for this change are dominated by innovation and technology but are also influenced by the makeup of the incoming workforce. By itself, the universal presence of technology and inordinate volume of data exchanged is creating a tsunami of change. For example, 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years alone. The addition of artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, robotics, and other automation tools are further transforming the workplace and the workforce by changing jobs that these technologies can automate.

This automation and robotics technology is disrupting the workforce by focusing the human workforce on more value-add activities, leaving the robots to complete manual and repetitive tasks. However, the generational and diversity differences in new talent, along with an explosion of contingent workers due to a virtual ecosystem and gig economy, have also started to change the status quo of the finance and accounting industry.

It is clear that the work being done is changing and it is likely that everyone in the future will be working alongside and in conjunction with smart machines and technologies. Just as artificial intelligence and robotics are integral to this evolving workforce, the intersection and alliance between people and machines are fundamental components for the future of work.

An influx of new accounting talent options is transforming the workforce

Talent is no longer just full and part-time employees. With the manifestation of the gig-economy, available talent has evolved to include contractors, gig workers, freelancers, and group efforts. Familiar roles such as full-time and part-time employees function alongside more open source talent, contractors, freelancers, and have shifted to outside problem-solving with crowd-sourcing and joint ventures.

It is estimated that 40 percent of the US workforce will be contingent by 2020 and organizations that can change to conform to that statistic will likely benefit from these new accounting talent options and see the value a contingent workforce brings to the organization.

Another player to enter the talent pool isn’t part of the human workforce—it is machines, and machines will eventually be just as much a part of the workforce as people. It is likely that everyone in the future will be working alongside and in conjunction with smart machines, many of which don’t yet exist.

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How to meet the challenges of digital disruption

To better understand where your organization is and how it needs to evolve, you can start by asking questions to help understand the challenges ahead for the technology and accounting profession, and better craft a strategy to prepare for and navigate the digital transformation of controllership.

Questions to ask
  1. What is your digital strategy for the future?
  2. What work can be done by smart machines and robots?
  3. Who can do the work?
  4. Where can the work be done?
  5. How does the future of work change organization design and behavior?
  6. How does the future of work transform leadership?
  7. How does the future of work alter talent, career, and learning?
  8. How do you develop a workforce experience for the future workforce?

Insights to consider
As you ask and answer the above questions, focusing on these key areas could provide ideas to help plan for organizational changes and enhance the value of the current and future workforce:

  • Redesign the workforce and transform the workplace–redesign work models, the organization structure, and the specifics of roles to transition to the future of work
  • Create a workplace that accesses, curates, and engages top talent–build a unique and positive work environment, a focus on engagement, a defined workplace culture, and competitive benefits to compete in the marketplace
  • Activate the digital organization–implement digital technology into the controllership function and form a digital team within the organization now
  • Sustain the organizational performance–Leadership assessments and development, continuous career learning, and talent enrichment are contributing factors toward performance stability
  • Find the right balance of human capital–the right combination of employees and contingent workers can enhance the value output within a team, contribute to an agile adoption of digital controllership, and enhance the performance of new technology

Enhance controllership and finance with automation
Many areas within the controllership function can benefit from automation and new robotics technology. Enhancing these areas can prime controllership to adjust talent strategies to fit within the future of work paradigm. Some areas within controllership that may see higher significant optimization are transaction processing, management reporting and analysis, financial and regulatory reporting, and even planning, forecasting, as well as control functions.

  • Enable Enable customized career paths focused on specific skill sets in the technology and accounting profession
    • Develop capability-driven career management frameworks
    • Determine curriculum gaps for crucial skills, per role and function and organize finance-specific education to support capabilities for different roles
    • Provide transparent and flexible career paths and deliberate formal and informal development for talent
  • Facilitate expansive professional development and growth opportunities
    • Establish rotational programs across finance and throughout the organization to provide broad exposure to areas of finance and the overall business
    • Support self-directed development and career planning with on-the-job activities and guidelines aligned to business priorities

To listen to further insights and more in-depth discussions about the impact of technology on accounting and controllership, take a look at the archive of our recent Dbriefs special, Controllership and the workforce of the future. Furthermore, as the technology and accounting profession continues to change in this digital transformation, knowing what to look for and how to attract talent in the digital age of controllership may offer insights into building the right workforce of the future.

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Visit the Controllership Insights blog for additional blog posts.

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

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